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Move More at the Office: 10 Ways to Exercise at Work

When you’re working 9-5, fitting in exercise is a challenge. Mornings are hectic and there’s always one more errand to run in the evening. If you’re trying to stay healthy and fit, it helps to find ways to exercise at work.

The glaring reality is since the 1960s, physical activity during the workday has steadily declined. In today’s workforce, 80% of jobs are sedentary or require only light physical activity. All this sitting hunched at a computer desk is taking a significant toll on our health. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons outlines computer-related overuse injuries, including nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage, particularly to the shoulders, arms, wrists, and neck.

Not only do doctors see an increase in overuse injuries, but sitting at a desk all day may lead to Metabolic Syndrome, characterized by high blood pressure and blood sugar levels, rising cholesterol levels, and accumulation of fat around the abdomen and waistline. The concern has become so dire that people say, “sitting is the new smoking” due to the adverse effects on your health.

Combating the issue is simple—move more throughout the workday. How do you get in movement and exercise at work? Here are ten tips to help you fight the risks of a sedentary lifestyle.


Fitting in even a few minutes of walking and moving each hour will significantly help offset the effects of a desk job. A study published in the Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology found even two minutes of light-intensity activities every hour offers benefits.

Have a hard time remembering to get up? Set a timer each hour to pop up on your desktop and remind you to head to the water cooler, take a bathroom break, or do a lap around your office suite.


Switching to a standing desk is another great way to fit in exercise at work. While standing might not seem like a significant change (standing versus sitting only burns about eight more calories per hour), there are still benefits.

Standing at a desk may help reduce back and shoulder pain. Standing also helps blood sugar levels return to normal after a meal. Researchers are still exploring the benefits of standing versus sitting, but the consensus is that standing offsets many of the risks associated with sitting for long periods. Plus, standing at your desk will help you feel motivated to take a few steps and move around more frequently.


A stability ball engages your core and strengthens your abdominal muscles as you sit. You can find specialized “chair” bases for the balls with wheels and lower back support to help you stay in proper form on the seat.

While stability balls are a good way to add exercise at work, it’s essential to pay attention to your posture and use arm support if necessary. You may want to switch your seating between an ergonomic office chair and the stability ball as you get used to using the ball, so you don’t become tired and slouch.


Another way to add in exercise at work is to pinpoint which activities you can do on your feet. Taking calls while standing, or even holding standup or walking meetings are excellent methods for adding movement into your workday.

Look through your calendar to see which engagements don’t require a computer or a seat and set a goal to stand. Your colleagues might enjoy the opportunity to hold walking meetings to keep the pace moving along. If you stand through a call, use it as a chance to do strength-building exercises like leg lifts.


If you want to incorporate exercise into your workday, be sure the tools you use promote wellness and health. Neck, back, and wrist strain can sideline your exercise routine outside of the office, so avoid them with the right chair, mouse, and keyboard.

Keep your computer positioned straight at eye level. Your feet should rest on the floor with your knees slightly below your hips. It’s tempting to work with a laptop on your lap, or your computer angled to the side, but this may set you up for wrist, back, and neck strain down the road.


To add more exercise into your workday, keep a variety of tools on hand to help. Exercise bands add resistance to leg lifts and fit in any work bag. Keep a small set of free weights in your desk (3-8 pounds), so you can fit in upper body strength-building moves on your breaks.

Another great idea is keeping a pair of sneakers in your desk. Having the right gear helps prevent injury, especially for beginners. If you want to go for a walk or a quick jog at lunch, you won’t need to worry about the right footwear. Lace up your shoes and go!


There are many simple yoga routines made for work. Look on YouTube or use an app to find seated routines and simple moves you can do anywhere.

Yin yoga or gentle yoga will help you stretch and incorporate movement, even if you’re wearing professional attire. Many of the routines last 10-20 minutes, making them perfect for a quick mid-day break. Close your office door, take a deep breath, and add a little Zen to your workday.


Whether you get a 30, 45, or 60-minute lunch, make the most of the break by using the time to fit in exercise. Eat away from your desk and take the opportunity to recharge your batteries and add more focus to your afternoon.

Studies show a lunchtime walk can boost your enthusiasm, help your mood, and lower your stress levels at work. In addition to the general health benefits of walking, you might come back from your journey more productive, with a sunnier outlook to finish out your workday.


While skipping the elevator might not be feasible if you work in a high rise, going up and down a few floors each day offers another opportunity to fit in more exercise at work. Try stopping the elevator three or four levels below your office and walking the rest of the way up. As you progress, add another flight each week.

Climbing stairs engages multiple muscle groups and is a great way to add cardio into your workday. You don’t need to break a sweat; even a few extra flights provide benefits. Before you hit the button on the elevator, consider opting for the stairwell.


Getting to and from work is a great time to add exercise into your workday. If you commute a long distance, consider parking farther away or getting off the bus a few stops ahead. If the weather is nice, biking or walking to work is a wonderful option as well.

If you want to exercise more frequently, consider joining a gym near your office. Once you walk out the door in the morning dressed for a workout, you know you’ll have to stop at the gym no matter what (if only to change your clothes). These little adjustments to your routine add a powerful incentive to keep your exercise commitments.

Adding more exercise at work is a great way to boost your overall fitness, as well as your mental health. As your body builds strength and stamina, you’ll more easily fend off illness and injury. However, should an injury occur (or if you need guidance on increasing your movement after an injury), our team of expert physical therapists is ready to help you. Request an appointment online or call 414-961-6800 to set up a consultation with a member of our physical therapy team.

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